My oldest daughter Emmy has her first full day of 1st grade today. It'll be interesting to hear how her day went later tonight. In the meantime it's got me to thinking about my own first grade days back during the school year of 1973-1974. I attended Mitchell-Neilson Primary in Murfreesboro. My teacher was a young lady named Miss Wilson. I adored her. It's probably why I was a troublemaker. I was always getting into mischief of one kind or another. I liked to antagonize the girls in the class and I was always talking. I'm an only child so it was novel to have other kids around. The punishment for my various offenses was that I had to sit right beside Miss Wilson's desk facing the rest of the class. Where I would promptly make stupid faces at one girl in particular that I liked (her name was Debra Reed in case anyone's wondering). I could continue my mischief and be close to Miss Wilson. It was awesome.
She used to play records during what was our nap time. We had to lay our heads on our desks and be quiet. Her favorite album was some version of Peter And The Wolf and she played that often enough I've never wanted to hear it again. One song she played that I never tired of was the Terry Jacks classic, "Seasons In The Sun". Every now and then we didn't have to be quiet and we could bring our own records from home which meant I could bring my mother's original 45 of "Hound Dog" and my 45 of Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" which wasn't too hip, but I was oblivious to that. There were a few other kids that liked Elvis. I remember this one kid who came to school in an Elvis type jumpsuit one day and did his best imitation of The King.
The first friend I made in the 1st grade is a friend to this day. I'm talking about the Gonz whom I've written about often at this little old blog. We were standing next to each other in the line to go into the class on the first day. We would fall in and out of touch over the years, but I think we're destined to sit in rocking chairs on a porch watching our future grandchildren play together one day while we reminisce about Miss Wilson together.
She drove a green Gremlin. I don't know why I would know this, but I do. I bought a toy Hot Wheels Gremlin just because of her. She was just a charming and nice teacher. She helped me get through 1st grade when I suffered from, consecutively, the chicken pox and the mumps. My 1st grade report card shows that I missed a 6 week chunk for the pox and the mumps, plus there were other days I was sick. I still remember when I discovered the first red spot signaling chicken pox. I was in Mrs. Armstrong's math class (the only subject not taught by Miss Wilson) when I noticed the red mark on my arm. It seemed harmless and I felt fine, but one look from my parents and they knew. Soon I was scored with the itchy red marks and I was in for torture for the next three weeks. I didn't mind the mumps as much. I never felt too poorly and I thought my swollen face was funny.
It wasn't quite as funny as the day I came in feeling sick and some kids from another class started making fun of me. "You're not sick," they taunted as we waited in line to go to our classes. "You're just faking," they said right before I threw up all over them. I still felt like crap, but inside I was chuckling as a teacher took me to the nurse's office. I knew I wouldn't have to sit through the terrible lunches served in the cafeteria.
Lunch time was weird. I didn't like any of the food and Miss Wilson would try to get me to eat. After a few months of torture, my parents started packing me a lunch. I didn't like the stupid games other kids played at lunch either. There was the "me Chinese me play joke and put pee pee in your coke" one. There was also the one where they would get kids to say "sh" and then "it" far apart at first and then say them closer and closer together until you'd said a bad word.
Sadly, I don't remember as much as I feel I should of that first year of fulltime school. There are fleeting glimpses: numbers, erasers, crayons, chalkboards, alphabet banners, filmstrips, playground, swings, see-saws, tooth gapped smiles, posters, books, running a race on field day being cheered on by my classmates, exercising in the cafeteria that doubled as the gym, tornado drills, and our principal Mrs. Snowden.
The odds of Miss Wilson ever finding this are slim. She got married a few years later when I was attending school across the street at Mitchell-Neilson Elementary and I don't recall if I ever even knew what her married name was. But even though she'll never see this, I want to thank her for being such a wonderful teacher and helping to ignite a curiosity for learning in me that has never stopped. If I could have just one day back sitting at my desk beside hers it would be grand. Especially if I she would let me get away with making silly faces at Debra Reed again.